Expressing and Storing Milk

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How to Breastfeed When You’re Not There to Breastfeed.

Many breastfeeding moms find it helpful to have a breast pump to collect and store milk. Using a breast pump can also help boost your milk production. It lets you collect milk for a premature baby who can’t yet latch on, and keeps up your supply for times when you’re away from your baby.

How much and how often you pump will depend on your needs. You may be back at work full-time and pumping provides your baby’s milk for the next day. Or you might just need the occasional pumped bottle or a small stash of milk in the freezer.

If you’ll be pumping regularly, you’ll want a high-quality electric pump for the best results. They’re easy to find online or at baby stores, or you can rent one from Swedish. Call 206-386-3398 to learn more. It usually takes 15 or 20 minutes to empty your breasts using an electric pump.

Manual breast pumps are fine if you don’t plan to pump often. They’ll take about 45 minutes to empty your breasts, and require some amount of hand strength to use.

You can express milk by hand without a pump, but it’s a slow process and best for when you only need a very small amount or want to relieve engorged breasts.

Storing Breast Milk

Your breast milk can be stored in collection bottles or special plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. Here are the guidelines:

  • Fresh milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  • Milk can be frozen in your refrigerator’s freezer (at 0 degrees Fahrenheit) for three to six months, or an upright or chest freezer (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) for six to twelve months.
  • Thawed milk can keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Do not refreeze it.
  • If your baby doesn’t finish a bottle, you can refrigerate it immediately and use it again within four hours.
  • To thaw frozen milk, leave it in the refrigerator overnight, or set the container in a bowl of warm water. Do not use a microwave to thaw or heat breast milk, as it can create dangerous hot spots, explode a container, and destroy the nutrients in the milk.

Breast milk may be bluish, whitish or yellowish in color, and the fats may separate up at the top of the bottle. This is all normal; shake the bottle to mix in the fats. If the milk has a foul smell, don’t use it. However, it’s normal for frozen milk to have a bit of a soapy smell and taste after being defrosted, due to a change in the fats from freezing.